The 10 Most Unknown Influential People

I’m not gonna ask you who Edison and Einstein are, or what Tesla was up to. Their contributions to the world cannot be denied, but not every famous inventor was recognized or acclaimed as they rightly deserved. So, are you ready to give credit where credit is due? These people have changed the world, and it’s about time we know their names.

10. Jerry Lawson

Jerry Lawson

I bet you didn’t know Jerry Lawson created the first console video game system, featuring a microprocessor and interchangeable cables. He was one of only two African-American innovators of Silicon Valley’s famous Homebrew Computer Club and his creation, Fairfield Channel F, was the precursor to console gaming as we know it today. It was eventually replaced in popularity by the Atari, but that’s a different story.

9. Sir John Harrington

Sir John Harrington

Sir John Harrington was a writer, but he came up with much more than inked pages. He designed the plumbing system we all use today. Sometime around 1596 when Harrington was publishing an inflammatory book under a pseudonym, he invented the flushing toilet. He called it the Ajax; it featured a tank of water, a flush valve and a wash-down design.

8. Aristarchus


Aristarchus was a Greek astronomer and mathematician. He was the first person to come up with the idea that the earth might revolve around the sun. His heliocentric model of the universe, with the sun at the center, and his radical ideas that stars might actually be much further away than we think were ideas considered a bad joke. Only 1,700 years later Copernicus realized the guy was right.

7. Heather McKay

Heather McKay

Heather McKay was once really good at squash. From 1962 until 1981 Heather didn’t lose a single match; she won 16 consecutive British Open titles and the inaugural World Open Title in 1979. She holds the record for longest lasting winning streak in a sport. Here’s to the greatest Australian athlete ever!

6. Robert Goddard

Robert Goddard

In 1909, Goddard wrote down his first thoughts on how to improve on powder rocket fuels by mixing liquids together to improve efficiency. Long story short, this science professor published in 1914 his thoughts on a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen liquid rocket fuel, with the help of a grant and several years of study. His work is considered the foundation for all liquid rocket fuel technology, so the next time you think about the astronauts, think about him.

5. Simon Bolivar

Simon Bolivar

Bolivar was a general, freedom fighter and patriot who liberated Venezuela, Columbia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia from Spanish rule; he layed the foundation for democracy. He was president of three countries at the same time, and later a dictator. They even named a country after him – Boliva.

4. Dennis Ritchie

Dennis Ritchie

Dennis Ritchie. along with Ken Thompson, developed and pioneered the UNIX operating system and the C-programming language. I realize few know what I’m talking about, but this is the foundation for so much modern technology I just can’t explain what would have happened if these guys hadn’t come up with such brilliant ideas.

3. Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace became interested in mathematics when she was young and suffering from an illness. She met Charles Babbage – another computer pioneer – and became extremely interested in analytical engines. She read and translated Luigi Manabrea’s memoir on his engine and contributed her own thoughts to it; she even included a detailed analysis of calculating Bernoulli numbers with Manabrea’s engine.

2. Sir Joseph Lister

Sir Joseph Lister

Lister was a medical pioneer responsible for antiseptic surgery. He took Luis Pasteur’s studies on microbiology and developed the concept of sterilized surgery – you’re welcome! His work led to major progress in post-surgical infection and generally a safer operating environment, managing to nearly eliminate gangrene in his patients. Anyone thinking Listerine?

1. Eratosthenes


Between 276 and 194 BC,  Eratosthenes invented the discipline of geography, calculated the tilt of the Earth to within one degree, determined the year was 365-1/2 days long, invented the leap year two centuries before we used it, and calculated the circumference of the Earth within 385 km by measuring shadows he found in a well in two separate towns. Isn’t that awesome? He designed the first world map using meridians and parallels; he also developed an algorithm to identify prime numbers, and correctly calculated the sun’s diameter. No modern tools, calculators, or telescopes were involved. Top that!

Most Influential People in History

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